Mother’s risk of heart attack increases with more children

By June Shannon Heart News   |   25th Jun 2018

Mums with five or more kids at increased risk of heart attack and stroke

A new UK study has found that the more children a mother has, the greater her risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure.

For the study researchers analysed data from more than 8,000 women aged 45-64 years. They found that having five or more children was associated with a 40 per cent increased risk of a serious heart attack in the next 30 years, compared to having just one or two children, after taking into account how long the women breastfed for.

Most significant risk increases were seen with five or more children

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Having five or more children was also associated with a 30 per cent increased risk of heart disease – the major cause of heart attacks – as well as a 25 per cent increased risk of stroke and a 17 per cent increase in the risk of heart failure compared to having one to two children.

The study also found that women who had a history of pregnancy loss, but no children had a 60 per cent increased risk of heart disease and a 45 per cent increased risk in heart failure in the following 30 years, compared to women who had one to two live births. This was likely to reflect underlying health problems that increase the risk of pregnancy loss as well as heart disease and heart failure.

Dr Clare Oliver-Williams who led the research at the University of Cambridge said: “The aim of my research is not to scare women but to bring to their attention as early as possible whether they might be at increased risk of heart attacks. We know that pregnancy and childbirth put a tremendous strain on the heart, and raising children can be very stressful, too. We don’t want to add to the stress people have in their everyday lives but equip them with the knowledge to do something about it.”

Pregnancy and childbirth put a tremendous strain on the heart

Dr Clare Oliver-Williams - University of Cambridge

“The number of children a woman has had is an easy sign of whether a woman is at greater risk. We all know it’s hard to take care of your health when you have children, but hopefully this research can help show how important it is and, perhaps, having children can provide some extra motivation.”

Commenting on the study Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director with the Irish Heart Foundation said, it gives possible explanations as to why lots of children might increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

“The physical stress put on the body with the increasing circulating volume of blood when you are pregnant causes increased cardiac output, so the heart has to work much harder. As suggested in the paper often women with lots of children have no time for themselves and are perhaps more likely to ignore symptoms and less likely to get checked out. This research reiterates how important it is for everyone to keep an eye on their health but in particular busy parents,” Dr Brown stated.

(The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Cambridge, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and was presented recently at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference in Manchester in the UK).

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blood pressure heart attack heart disease pregancy stroke women and heart health

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